English as a Second Language Curriculum

The mission of the ESL component of the Writing Program is to help non-native speakers achieve college-level proficiency in English speaking, reading, and writing. Our ESL seminars (WR 097 and WR 098) prepare students for the challenges they will face in subsequent Writing Seminars (WR 100 and WR 150) and in the courses they will take throughout their college careers.

The ESL course sequence teaches students to read critically, speak articulately, and write effectively. The seminars place an emphasis on the structure of language as a basis for effective analytical writing. Students examine cultural differences in strategies for classroom discourse and learn the rhetorical conventions of academic English.

Enrollment in Writing Program courses for students whose first language is not English is based upon placement test results. ESL students who do not advance immediately to WR 100 will be placed either in WR 097 or WR 098. Initial placement in WR 097 requires completion of WR 098 in the next semester, prior to taking WR 100. Students enrolled initially in WR 098 proceed thereafter to WR 100.

Guiding Principles

The goal of the ESL program is to help ESL international students achieve a balance of language skills that would allow them to perform competently—and on a par with their native peers—the academic writing tasks relevant to their majors.

The ESL course sequence is designed to enhance the ability to read critically, discuss effectively, and present ideas in correct, coherent, and effective writing. Grammar topics are covered within the context of writing, through targeted teaching of linguistic structures and workshops on patterns of errors identified in students’ writing.

A major goal is also to cultivate awareness of the rhetorical conventions of academic English and to train the students to apply culturally appropriate strategies for maintaining disciplinary discourse.

WR 097

The course is designed to set the foundation for college writing and prepare students for the challenges of WR 098 and subsequent mainstream courses. Students learn to employ the structures and vocabulary appropriate to academic writing. Assigned readings provide models for analysis and discussion that help students recognize and emulate the processes used in academic texts.


  • use effective strategies for reading college-level texts and for acquiring new vocabulary in academic contexts
  • begin to build up a logical analytical argument in a short essay
  • express ideas using a controlled range of structures
  • identify and practice various writing styles and formats
  • fluently perform classroom language functions
  • understand the culture of the American academic classroom
  • acquire knowledge of basic grammar and meta-language
  • begin to perform meta-cognitive and self-reflective tasks


Reading comprehension; discussion and oral presentation skills; vocabulary development; grammar and mechanics; sentence-level correctness; paragraph coherence

  • The syllabus is organized in four units which illustrate different genres and disciplines and progressively build fundamental writing skills.
  • The teaching of grammar is in context, organized in targeted structures to respond to linguistic needs across the class, as well as to map out individual student agendas.
  • The special emphasis on public speaking facilitates fluency and communicative confidence.
  • As the course is the entry level to college, a component on academic acculturation (developing basic academic skills) is put in place.


  • Enrollment limit 15 students.
  • Short non-fiction texts constitute the bulk of the readings.
  • A longer work (memoir/novel) revisits themes and activates various grammatical structures covered.
  • Two major papers and three minor papers with drafts (finished writing 15 pages).
  • Weekly short writing homework.
  • Two teacher-student conferences and recommended tutoring appointments.
  • Oral presentations on readings.
  • Three unit quizzes—on all aspects of the class work.

WR 098

WR 098 is a reading-based course, with emphasis on critical textual analysis, the logic of exposition and argumentation, audience and tone, accuracy in language use and prose mechanics. The course tasks respond to the linguistic needs of the students by addressing specific elements of English grammar and style. A strong public speaking component helps students achieve oral fluency and confidence. Two conferences: one with instructor and one with a writing tutor.

The major theme of the course is The Global University, and the syllabus is structured around four thematic units encompassing the life of a research university. Each unit presents a variety of genres and culminates in a formal paper.


  • read academic texts on varied subjects with accurate comprehension and intellectual discernment
  • recognize and use the conventions of expository and argumentative discourse
  • develop the tools to critique academic texts, including the ability to identify and critique thematic and rhetorical structures
  • write grammatically correct prose, using appropriate diction
  • plan, write, and revise academic papers with structural accuracy, clarity, coherence, and attention to stylistic features of written English
  • understand American academic conventions
  • develop ability to respond to the writing of others
  • use effective strategies for self-editing


Guided reading and close textual analysis; modeling of argumentation patterns; strategies for summarizing and documenting sources; consideration of audience and purpose; fluent speaking in semi-formal setting; correct lexical and syntactic usage.


  • Enrollment limit 15 students.
  • Close reading and vocabulary work.
  • Contextualized study of grammar and prose mechanics.
  • Modeling of essay structure and argumentation.
  • Discussion of academic integrity and plagiarism; practice of citation conventions.
  • Non-fiction readings of cross-disciplinary nature; a longer work at the end of the semester revisits themes from previous readings.
  • Two required conferences: one with instructor and one with a Writing Center tutor.
  • Team-facilitated presentations on assigned readings.
  • Three formal papers with multiple drafts (20 pages of finished writing).
  • Frequent short assignments and in-class writing.
  • A final portfolio with cover letter and selected work.

WR 100 ESL

The course has the same core goals and format as the mainstream WR 100 but adds a grammar workshop component to address the specific linguistic needs of students. It is taught by instructors with ESL background and sensitivity.


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Graduate Writing Fellowships

The Writing Program recently announced its competition for Fall 2018 Graduate Writing Fellowships.
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Spring 2018 Catalog

The Spring 2018 course catalog is available to view on the Curriculum page.
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